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How to Stop Overusing These 4 Common words in Your Writing

Improve your writing by avoiding the overuse of common words.

Joscelyn Kate
3 min readMar 23, 2021


Someone once said something about writing a million words to find your voice. I agree it takes at least that many although I haven’t reached the milestone myself yet so I couldn’t say with any certainty. The words you write matter though. Writing ‘the’ one million times isn’t going to improve your writing. Each time you write, there should be some improvement from the last time.

Sometimes there’s no way to avoid the use of certain words, but that’s no reason to overuse them either.

Common words make your writing passive, boring, and can cause you to run out of thoughts about your topic because their overuse boxes you in.

Four Common Words to Avoid Using Over & Over

Common Word #1: If

Starting a sentence with ‘if’ can come across as lazy. It’s speculative and unclear. Writing in an active and authoritative voice means being certain about what you’re saying.

And here’s a little writer’s secret: most of us aren’t completely certain about what we’re saying, we’re only pretty sure and simply avoid writing like that.

Common Word #2: When

Similar to ‘if’, ‘when’ sounds as though you don’t know how to start your next thought. Rearrange words as often as possible to avoid making a statement and following up with, ‘when.’

Sentence: Overusing common words makes your writing boring. When your writing is boring, nobody wants to read it.

Instead: Writing with common words makes your writing boring.

No need to remind people what happens when their writing is boring because boring isn’t good or ambiguous. Nobody wants to have boring writing so they don’t need to be convinced to avoid it. ‘When’ is usually a precursor to filler content.

Common Word #3: This

Creativity takes a lot of thought. There are going to be times where you cannot avoid using words like ‘this’, ‘if’, and ‘when’ but just because that’s true, doesn’t mean you should use them…



Joscelyn Kate

Writer and podcaster on self-worth and boundaries. Lover of lattes, champagne, avocados, sleep, and my perfect family.